|Rainy Summer Causes Concern for West Nile
Receding floodwaters and heavy rains are creating a perfect storm of conditions that have contributed to the highest level of West Nile virus activity in the state’s mosquito population since the disease was first discovered here in 2000, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The disease, which has infected more than 150 people in the past six years, is on track to pose a higher than normal risk this year and is widespread throughout the Commonwealth, having already been found in 51 Pennsylvania counties as of Aug. 1.
DEP and county partners throughout the state also conduct routine, localized spraying events to control infected adult populations of mosquitoes. These operations are conducted when and where deemed necessary based on recent population survey results, but they are not a substitute for preventive measures like eliminating standing, stagnant water. As part of the state budget, a $140,000 increase was added to the mosquito surveillance program.
Symptoms of West Nile virus in humans are typically like those of a mild flu, but the virus can lead to a more serious condition that includes swelling of the brain, muscle convulsions, coma, paralysis and death. Since DEP first began monitoring for the virus in 2000, 33 fatal cases have been reported in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania residents are urged to take commonsense precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes. By eliminating places for mosquitoes to lay eggs, using insect repellant and other protective measures, and targeted use of pesticides, we can all make sure Pennsylvanians are protected.
For more information about West Nile virus, click here.
New Law to Better Protect Care-Dependent Individuals
A new law taking effect soon will better protect individuals who are dependent upon others for their care. Act 53 of 2018 will make it a crime to intentionally or recklessly endanger a care-dependent person – closing a gap in state law that exists between neglect and abuse. This addition to the Crimes Code includes neglect to provide care which causes a serious injury or death. This stems from a Bucks County case in which an elderly man was neglected so badly by four family caregivers his starvation led to septic shock.
The new law also adds abuse of a care-dependent person as a punishable offense – with the former law focusing only on neglect investigations – and expands the definition of a caretaker to include family members who should be held responsible. This law was necessary because some care-dependent people, who are among the most vulnerable groups of people in the state, were left without direct protections from the abuse and neglect by their caretakers.
The law allows the departments of Aging, Health and Human Services to report suspected abuse or neglect to district attorneys or the attorney general’s office. Penalties vary from a first-degree felony for death of a care-dependent person to a second-degree misdemeanor if a caretaker knowingly endangers a care-dependent person by failing to provide for his or her needs.
Slow Down for School Buses, Pedestrians
In the next few weeks, students will head back to class. Motorists, parents and children are encouraged to refresh their memories about how to share the road safely with school buses and other school transportation vehicles.
Pennsylvania law requires motorists stop at least 10 feet away from school buses when their red lights are flashing and their stop arm is extended. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm is withdrawn. Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.
Penalties for failure to obey school bus safety laws can result in a $250 fine, five points on a driving record and a 60-day license suspension.
Parents are reminded to ensure that their children are at the bus stop early to avoid rushing. Students should stay where the bus driver can see them while boarding or exiting the bus.
Click here for more information and tips on school bus safety.
Get the Facts About Concussions
With many student athletes gearing up for fall sports practice, students, parents and coaches are reminded about ways to prevent, recognize and manage concussions.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or from a fall or blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Concussions can have serious short-term and long-term impacts, especially on young people whose brains are still developing.
In 2011, the Safety in Youth Sports Act was signed into law in Pennsylvania, requiring all school entities to develop return-to-play policies for student athletes with concussions, as well as requiring related training for coaches.
Visit the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov and search for “Traumatic Brain Injury” for approved curricula for coaches and other school personnel, along with frequently asked questions about the law and many other state-related resources.
Most importantly, if you think your child has a concussion, seek medical attention, discuss the injury with the coach and don’t allow the athlete to return to play without permission from a health care professional.